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Thursday, 27 November 2014

Poll finds Labour comfortably ahead in the marginals

A new poll conducted by ComRes for ITV News reveals that Labour retains its lead over the Conservatives in the forty most marginal seats where the two parties are fighting head-to-head against each other ahead of the General Election next year.

However, Labour’s lead falls from 11 points in September to eight points now. Its potential vote share has fallen two points to 39%, while the Conservatives are on 31%. At the General Election in 2010, the two main parties were tied on 37% across these seats.

The Liberal Democrats are now on 7%, while UKIP are in third place on 18% – suggesting Nigel Farage’s party could play a significant role in determining who comes out top in these crucial battlegrounds.

Conservative 31% (+1)
Labour 39% (-2)
Liberal Democrat 7% (+1)
UKIP 18% (+1)
Others 4% (-1)

(Figures in brackets show changes from October 2014)

Tom Mludzinski, Head of Political Polling, ComRes said: "While polls have shown a tight race nationally, a focus on these forty seats where the battle between Labour and the Conservatives will be hardest fought shows Ed Miliband’s party significantly ahead, despite David Cameron the favoured choice as Prime Minister. Next year’s General Election still has many permutations, but Labour’s lead in this battleground puts them in a strong position."

The findings of the poll in detail:
  • One in ten people (10%) who voted for Labour in 2010 now say that they would switch to vote UKIP, along with one in five people (21%) who voted Conservative.
  • Voters in marginal seats remain more likely to prefer a Labour to a Conservative government (41% to 36%), but David Cameron over Ed Miliband as Prime Minister (44% to 31%).
  • Nearly half of voters in marginal seats (45%) think that UKIP are a serious party, although 39% think not.
  • Two thirds (64%) think that politicians in Westminster work in their own best interests compared to only one in six (18%) who think MPs work in the best interests of their constituents. UKIP voters (80%) are the most likely to think they act in their own interests, although the majority of voters of all main parties think the same (Conservative 57%, Labour 64%).
  • One in three (33%) voters in marginal seats say they would consider voting for UKIP at the General Election next year, with nearly as many (30%) saying they would vote for the party if they thought it could win in their constituency. 22% of people saying they would currently vote Conservative say they would vote for UKIP if they thought UKIP could win in their constituency. One in seven Labour voters (14%) say the same.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

IDS says Universal Credit will be rolled out in the Spring but Labour say its a "shambles"

Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, has today launched a fresh attack on Labour’s record on welfare as he announced further progress in the roll out of Universal Credit. Mr Duncan Smith said: “Labour left us with a welfare state that simply wasn’t fit for purpose – spending billions of taxpayers money on a system that frequently trapped the very people it was supposed to help in cycles of worklessness and welfare dependency. It was so complicated that you needed that you needed a maths degree to see if it was worth taking a job. We’ve made real progress in fixing that system – and under Universal Credit, people can be sure that they will always be better off in work than on benefits. But Labour still have their heads in the sand. Seemingly wedded to their spendthrift ways of the past and resistant to reform."

The DWP claim that research shows Universal Credit claimants do more to look for work than jobseekers claiming under the current system - spending twice as many hours in a week looking for work. It is also set to make 3 million families better off by £177 a month and lift up to 300,000 children out of poverty. When fully in place the economy will benefit by £7bn each year. The Labour party is pledged to "pause the programme" and ask the National Audit Office to investigate. Iain Duncan Smith pointed out that Universal Credit is already one of the most scrutinised government projects - and has recently been assured by the Major Projects authority.

Iain Duncan Smith commenting on Universal Credit being rolled out, said: “Universal Credit is rolling out across the country – transforming lives for the better. But Labour refuses to accept the evidence of success. To my mind this just proves that Labour are still the ‘welfare party’ - completely resistant to change - with no plans and no prospects for the future.”

The UC pathfinder was launched in April 2013 for single jobseekers and was then rolled to couples and now families. 36,000 people have put in a claim for UC and it’s already in 80 jobcentres. Universal Credit merges six benefits into one and simplifies the system so that claimants can see they will always be better off in work than on benefits. It transforms the relationship between jobseekers and the welfare state. Iain Duncan Smith said: “Universal Credit is the end of the dole as we know it. Instead, we are introducing a system that supports people to escape poverty and welfare dependency – putting them on the path to securing a better future for themselves and their families.”

Alongside the monetary support, Universal Credit claimants are paired with a "work coach" who not only supports them to find a job, but continues to work with them to increase their earnings and job prospects until they are free from any kind of welfare dependency.

From this week, Universal Credit rolls out to families. Iain Duncan Smith said: “Universal Credit is much better for families because they can get up to 85% of their childcare costs covered. This provision means parents are better able to make choices about what works for them. This is the latest step in this Governments commitment to supporting families - and Labour’s failure to back Universal Credit looks like yet another example of their resistance to reforms that support families."

UC is restoring fairness and sense to the welfare state - and works alongside other successful policies, such as the benefit cap, which ensures people on benefits don’t get more than those in work. More than 12,000 households subject to the cap have made the choice to move into jobs or stop claiming housing benefit. Iain Duncan Smith said: “This government is restoring fairness to the system - ensuring we have a safety net to support those in need, but not a net that traps people who are ready and able to work. Universal Credit ensures the right financial incentives are in place: sending a clear message that you're always better off in work than on benefits. That's fair to claimants, and fair to taxpayers. This stands in stark contrast to Labour, who presided over a system where some claimants were able to claim in excess of £50,000”

Responding to Iain Duncan Smith's comments the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Rachel Reeves, said: “Iain Duncan Smith’s claim this morning that almost 40,000 people are claiming Universal Credit shows why this programme has become a complete shambles. The latest figures from the Department for Work and Pensions show just 17,850 people are claiming Universal Credit, less than two per cent of the million people Iain Duncan Smith said would be on the new benefit in April 2014.

“Labour wants Universal Credit to succeed but the Government’s mishandling of the programme has led to huge waste and delays with over £130 million of taxpayers money wasted on failed IT. It’s another example of Tory Welfare Waste. A Labour government would pause Universal Credit for three months to examine whether the programme can be rescued from the shambles David Cameron’s Government has left it in.” Ms Reeves added.

Text of Cameron's Commons Statement in responding to the ISC report into the murder of Lee Rigby

This afternoon the Prime Minister, David Cameron, made a statement of the House of Commons in response to the report of the Intelligence and Security Committee into the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby, in Woolwich in 2013. Text of Mr Cameron's statement is below:

"Mr Speaker, today the House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee has published its report into the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby.

He was a British soldier who stood for our country and for our way of life...

....and he was killed in broad daylight on the streets of our capital city.

It was a stark reminder of threat we face from home-grown terrorists and extremists plotting to murder our people.

But at the same time we should be clear that it was a betrayal of Islam and of the Muslim communities in Britain who give so much to our country.

Mr Speaker, I am sure the thoughts of the whole House are with his friends and family at this time.

When I spoke in this House in the aftermath of the attack, I said we would bring those responsible to justice...

...and we would learn the lessons of what happened in Woolwich.

The two murderers Michael Adebowale and Michael Adebolajo have since been convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

And today this report answers the questions we had about what our security services knew about these murderers....

....and the lessons we can learn to help stop similar attacks in the future.

I am grateful to my Rt Hon Friend the Member for Kensington and his committee for this comprehensive report.

It contains an unprecedented degree of detail on the current workings of MI5, the Secret Intelligence Service and GCHQ.

I wanted us to get to the truth as quickly as possible, without a prolonged judicial process.

And I think that is exactly what we have done with this exceptional report.

Few countries in the world would publish this degree of detail about the activities of their security services.

It reflects the way we have strengthened this Committee with new powers to hold our security services to account.

And for this report, the Agencies have carried out the same searches they would for proceedings in the law courts.


Mr Speaker, before I turn to the key findings let me be clear that this is a very serious report...

...and there are significant areas of concern within it.

I don't want anyone to be in any doubt that there are lessons to be learned and that things needs to change.

But on the key findings, I am sure the House will welcome that the Committee does "...not consider that, given what the Agencies knew at the time, they were in a position to prevent the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby."

Furthermore, as the Committee says: "it is greatly to the agencies' credit that that they have protected the UK from a number of terrorist plots in recent years."

As the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police says four or five serious plots have been foiled this year alone.

Mr Speaker, so much of what our Agencies do necessarily goes unreported.

They are Britain's silent heroes.

And the whole country owes them an enormous debt of gratitude.

But there are four broad areas where things need to change.

On dealing with delays in the process of investigating potential terrorists.

On dealing with low priority cases and so-called self-starting terrorists.

On the role and responsibilities of internet companies in helping to keep us safe.

And on tackling foreign fighters travelling abroad for terrorist purposes.

Let me take each in turn.


First, the report identifies a number of serious delays and potential missed opportunities.

The Committee expressed concern over the four month delay in opening an investigation into Michael Adebolago following his return from Kenya in 2010...

...and the eight month delay before Michael Adebowale was first actively investigated in 2012.

The report concludes that an application for intrusive surveillance on Michael Adebowale in 2013 took "nearly twice as long as it should have"...

...and that had the original target been met: "these further intrusive techniques would have been in place during the week before, and on the day of the attack."

But the report does go on to say that "there is no indication that this would have provided advance warning of the attack: retrospective analysis of all the information now available to the Agencies has not provided any such evidence."

The report also finds that the two murderers were in contact 39 times between 11th April and 22nd May - including 7 attempted calls and 16 text messages on the day before the attack.

But again we should be clear that post event analysis shows - and I quote - "none of these text messages revealed any indication of attack planning or indeed anything of significance"

So Mr Speaker, while the Committee accepts that these delays and missed opportunities did not affect the outcome in this case...

...they are, however, clear that processes need to be substantially improved.

Mr Speaker, MI5 are improving guidance and training for investigators for their online teams...

...and looking at new automated processes to act on extremist material online.

The MI5 initial lessons learned document has already been published in today's report.

And I have asked the Security Service to provide a further detailed report to the Home Secretary and me in the New Year setting out progress on implementing each and every one of these lessons learned.

In all of this we need to remember the extreme pressure our Agencies are under.

As the Director General of MI5 put it: "We are not an army that has battalions waiting in barracks for deployment."


Second, one of the most challenging tasks facing our agencies is how to prioritise the many and various potential threats to our security.

This is difficult and it is not an exact science.

During the weeks prior to the Woolwich attack, they were running several hundred counter-terrorism investigations...

...and as the Committee note they are monitoring at any one time several thousand Subjects of Interest.

It is obviously essential to focus on the highest priority cases and especially those where there is specific intelligence that terrorists are planning an attack in the UK.

But the report details how Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale were both known to the security services for some time.

Michael Adebolajo had featured in 5 separate Security Service investigations since 2008 and MI5 had put significant effort into investigating him as part of several of these investigations.

Michael Adebowale featured in two lower priority investigations.

While none of these investigations revealed any intelligence of an attack...

...the Committee does recommend improvements to the processes for dealing with recurring Subjects of Interest, low priority cases and so-called "self-starting" terrorists.

This government has protected budgets for counter-terrorism and the security services have been clear with me that they have always had the resources they need.

But the increasing threat we face, including from these so-called "self-starting" terrorists, means that we should now go further in strengthening our capabilities.

So my Rt Hon Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will make an additional £130 million available over the next two years, including new funding to enhance our ability to monitor and disrupt these self-starting terrorists.

Mr Speaker, the report also makes clear the important role of all public bodies in dealing with this threat of self-starting terrorists and extremists.

Our Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill being introduced tomorrow will include for the first time a clear legal obligation on our universities, prisons, councils and schools to play their part in tackling this poisonous extremism.

And the new funding being made available today will include additional resources for programmes to prevent radicalisation.


Third, turning to the role of internet companies.

The Committee is clear that they did find - and I quote - "one issue that could have been decisive"

In December 2012, five months before the attack, Michael Adebowale had a crucial online
exchange in which he wrote about his desire to kill a soldier.

But the automated systems in the internet company concerned did not identify this exchange.

And further, when they automatically shut down other accounts used by Michael Adebowale on the grounds of terrorism...

...there was no mechanism to notify the authorities.

So this information only came to light several weeks after the attack as a result of a retrospective review by the company.

The Committee conclude that "this is the single issue which - had it been known at the time - might have enabled MI5 to prevent the attack."

This is a very serious finding.

The report does not name the company and it would not be appropriate for me to give a running commentary on the level of co-operation from different internet companies.

But the Committee is clear that they have serious concerns about the approach of a number of communications service providers based overseas.

This Summer, the Government introduced emergency legislation to put beyond doubt in UK law that the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act applies to companies based overseas that deliver services in this country.

And I appointed Sir Nigel Sheinwald as a Special Envoy on intelligence and law enforcement data sharing to address concerns that there could be a conflict between UK and US law in this area.

Since then a number of companies have improved their co-operation.

But as I said in my speech to the Australian Parliament earlier this month, there is further to go.

We are already having detailed discussions with internet companies on the new steps they can take.

And we expect the companies to report back on progress in the New Year.

Mr Speaker, terrorists are using the internet to communicate with each other.

We must not accept that these communications are beyond the reach of the authorities or the internet companies themselves.

We have taken action. We have passed legislation. And we will continue to do everything we can.

And we expect the internet companies to do all they can too.

Their networks are being used to plot murder and mayhem.

It is their social responsibility to act on this. And we expect them to live up to it.


Fourth, the report also raises a series of issues directly relevant to the increased threat in recent months from British citizens travelling to fight abroad, so-called foreign fighters.

The Committee expresses concern about what they describe as a "deeply unsatisfactory" response to Michael Adebolajo's arrest in Kenya.

They highlight the importance of tackling British citizens travelling to fight with terrorists groups in Syria and Iraq.

And the report recommends further powers, including considering whether existing proscription powers should be amended to enable further prosecutions.

Tackling foreign fighters is an absolute priority for our Agencies.

To be fair to the Agencies and police, in the case of Michael Adebolajo, he was interviewed on return to the UK.

And their operational effort has been stepped up with more than 120 arrests this year for Syria-related offences, compared to 27 in the whole of 2013."

But the Committee is right to ask whether we need to give our agencies stronger powers to tackle extremists.

Our Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill being introduced in Parliament tomorrow will include essential new powers to seize passports to prevent travel... stop suspects returning unless they do so on our terms and... relocate suspected terrorists to other parts of the country and away from their extremist networks.

And I hope that we can take this Bill forward on a cross-party basis so our agencies are able to start using these vital powers as soon as possible.


Finally, Mr Speaker, the Committee criticises the Secret Intelligence Service for the handling of allegations of Michael Adebolajo's mistreatment in Kenya.

This Government took the important step of publishing the Consolidated Guidance in 2010 on the obligations of our agencies and the Ministry of Defence in relation to detainees held overseas.

But of course there are cases which fall outside the scope of this guidance, for instance where people are entirely dealt with by overseas agencies, but where the Secret Intelligence Service clearly still has an operational interest.

In these cases the Agency are clear they always seek assurances about the treatment of detainees...

...and that in future they will record the outcome of their investigations and inform Ministers if mistreatment has occurred.

Of course it is right that there is vigorous oversight of this issue.

So the Government will put the oversight role of the Intelligence Services Commissioner on a statutory footing.

I will issue a direction under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act in the coming days to formalise Sir Mark Waller's role in overseeing the guidance on detainees.

Sir Mark will have full access to all the material referred to in the report and will be able to examine the concerns raised by the Committee about the Government's responsibilities in relation to partner counter-terrorism units overseas.

Mr Speaker, today's report contains a number of very detailed recommendations...

...and we will publish a full response to all the points raised in the New Year.

We will not shrink from doing what is necessary to keep our people safe.

The terrorist threat we face cannot be ignored or contained.

We have to confront it.

We have to equip our security services with the powers and the information they need to track down these terrorists and stop them attacking our people.

And we have to confront the extremist ideology that drives this terrorism by defeating the ideas that warp so many young minds at their root.

Of course none of this will be easy. And none of it will happen overnight.

We will need stamina, patience and endurance.

But we will in the end succeed.

We will in the end defeat this extremism...

...and protect our people and our way of life for generations to come.

And I commend this Statement to the House."

Labour's plan to transform the relationship between state and private schools

Shadow Education Secretary, Tristram Hunt, has today delivered a major speech announcing Labour’s plan to recast the relationship between state and private schools. He set out how, if elected in May the next Labour government will break down the ‘corrosive divide’ in education by making £700 million currently received by private schools in business rates relief conditional on them meeting minimum standards of partnership with the state sector and ending exclusive private school competitions in extracurricular activities, such as sport and debating. In a speech at Walthamstow Academy– a member of the state and private school partnership United Learning– Mr Hunt also said that only Labour is serious about breaking down the barriers which hold our country back.

Tristram Hunt, said: "There can be little doubt that Britain is an increasingly divided country. I want to talk about one of those sources of division within British life. A divide that has become emblematic of a country run for the benefit of the privileged few not the many. The divide between private and state education. If we are to prosper as a country, we need to be a more equal country. If we are to make the most of the wealth of talent that exists in every school and every community, we need to give every child a chance. And if we are to be a country which works for most people, we need to break down the divisions in our school system with concerted, collaborative and co-ordinated action from the entire English educational landscape - including the private sector. I know I am not the first to say this. We have a Prime Minister who makes a virtue merely of pointing out this divide exists. But the crucial difference is this: I mean it."

He pointed out the extent of private school dominance in a range of fields including access to top universities, professions and elite sport – accounting for 41 per cent of Team GB Olympic medallists. Mr Hunt said: "It baffles me that we can have private schools loaning a sports pitch to the local comprehensive once or twice a year yet completely refusing to play them at football or opening up their halls and amphitheatres yet unwilling to engage in a debating competition. Social enterprises such as Debate Mate have shown how rewarding and relatively easy it is to set up debate clubs in high disadvantage state schools. And it is hardly difficult to join the local sports leagues. So I see absolutely no reason why private schools should persist with their exclusive private-only competitions. We would look to include regular participation in competitive extra-curricular activities with state schools as part of this settlement."

He also criticised most private schools who he said are not doing enough to earn generous state subsidies through Business Rates Relief worth £700 million over the course of a parliament, as well as benefitting from other tax breaks and qualified teachers trained by the state. Citing figures showing just 3 per cent of private schools sponsor an academy, while only a further 5 per cent loan teaching staff to state schools, and a mere third share facilities, he will add: "The only possible answer to whether they earn their £700m subsidy is a resounding and unequivocal ‘no’. Over the last few years we have seen the limitations of asking private schools politely. So the next government will say to them: step up and play your part. Earn your keep. Because the time you could expect something for nothing is over."

Labour will legislate to make Business Rates Relief payable only when schools meet a tough new Schools Partnership Standard which will require them to:

  • Provide qualified teachers in specialist subjects to state schools. 
  • Share expertise to help state school students get into top universities 
  • Run joint extra-curricular programmes where the state schools is an equal partner so children can mix and sectors learn from each other 

Mr Hunt said: I realise that to some this may seem an unnecessarily tough test. But that is not because I want to penalise private education but because I want to make sure we break down the barriers holding Britain back. I passionately believe we deserve an education system where the majority of young people enjoy the same access to excellence as the privileged 7 per cent; where disadvantaged pupils no longer feel any anxiety or insecurity at aspiring towards success because they feel success belongs to them; and where our children experience equality of opportunity rather than just learn it is one of our core values. But most of all I want us to become a country where we no longer feel the need to point out how few state educated members there are in the top universities, professions and sports teams because that description simply no longer rings true. That is the prize we are chasing with this new partnership. And believe me: clawing back business rate relief will be a poor consolation if we do not bring it about."

Labour's new education settlement:
  • As a condition for continued business rate relief, state-subsidised private schools will be required to form a hard-edged partnership with a state school, or consortium of schools. New legislation will be passed to amend the 1988 Local Government Act making business rate relief conditional to hard-edged partnership. The Education Act and the Independent Schools Regulations will also be amended to establish the criteria upon which private schools will be judged.
  • Private schools will have to demonstrate to their accredited inspectorate that they are participating in a meaningful partnership with a state school.
  • Non-compliance or failure to demonstrate effective partnership will result in private schools losing their eligibility for business rate relief, incurring a cost that could run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.
  • Examples of effective partnerships already exist, with a small minority of private and state school heads leading effective collaborations.
  • United Learning, the umbrella group for Walthamstow Academy, is a leading partnership arrangement between state and private schools.

Responding Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "What Britain can learn is that high-performing systems internationally focus on high quality public education rather than the public/private division which characterises education here. If education is a public good, which is certainly what we in the NUT believe, all children and young people should have access to a good local school irrespective of parental social class and disposable income."

Continuing Ms Blower said: "It is certainly true that there is a very great deal‎ of excellent practice in the maintained sector from which colleagues in the independent sector could learn. OECD research shows that when exam results take into account social class and background, students in state schools succeed as well as their peers in independent schools. Whilst the independent sector retains a privileged tax and charity status it is incumbent upon schools in that sector to share their resources with other local schools."

Rifkind statement on Lee Rigby murder report

The Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament has today published its Report on the intelligence relating to the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby. The Chairman of the ISC, the Rt. Hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind MP, said: “The murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby on 22 May 2013 was first and foremost a tragedy for his family and friends: our thoughts are with them today.

When there is a terrorist attack, such as that in Woolwich last year, it is essential that there is a thorough investigation to establish whether mistakes were made, whether the attack could have been prevented, and to ensure that any lessons are learned. Over the past eighteen months, the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament has examined in considerable detail the actions of the intelligence and security Agencies in relation to the two men who killed Fusilier Rigby. We have inspected hundreds of highly classified documents and questioned Ministers, the Heads of the three Agencies, and senior officers from the Metropolitan Police Service. We are today publishing the results of our Inquiry.

This is the most detailed Report we have ever published, which has been possible because of the Committee‟s new powers of investigation under the Justice and Security Act 2013.

In terms of the action taken by the Agencies, our findings are that:

  • The two men appeared, between them, in seven different Agency investigations – for the most part as low-level Subjects of Interest. There were errors in these operations, where processes were not followed, decisions not recorded, or delays encountered.
  • However we do not consider that any of these errors, taken individually, were significant enough to have made a difference.
  • We have also considered whether, taken together, these errors may have affected the outcome. We have concluded that, given what the Agencies knew at the time, they were not in a position to prevent the murder of Fusilier Rigby.
  • Michael Adebolajo was a high priority for MI5 during two operations: they put significant effort into investigating him and employed a broad range of intrusive techniques. None of these revealed any evidence of attack planning.
  • By contrast, Michael Adebowale was never more than a low level SoI and the Agencies took appropriate action based on the rigorous threshold set down in law: they had not received any intelligence that Adebowale was planning an attack and, based on that evidence, more intrusive action would not have been justified.

To put these investigations into perspective, it should be borne in mind that at any one time MI5 is investigating several thousand individuals who are linked to Islamic extremist activities in the UK.

The one issue which we have learned of which, in our view, could have been decisive only came to light after the attack. This was an online exchange in December 2012 between Adebowale and an extremist overseas, in which Adebowale expressed his intent to murder a soldier in the most graphic and emotive manner. This was highly significant. Had MI5 had access to this exchange at the time, Adebowale would have become a top priority. There is then a significant possibility that MI5 would have been able to prevent the attack.

We have examined whether the Agencies could have discovered this intelligence before the attack, had they had cause to do so: it is highly unlikely. What is clear is that the one party which could have made a difference was the company on whose system the exchange took place. However, this company does not regard themselves as under any obligation to ensure that they identify such threats, or to report them to the authorities. We find this unacceptable: however unintentionally, they are providing a safe haven for terrorists.

Our Report considers the wider relationship between law enforcement authorities and Communications Service Providers. None of the major US companies we approached proactively monitor and review suspicious content on their systems, largely relying on users to notify them of offensive or suspicious content. We also found that none of them regard themselves as compelled to comply with UK warrants obtained under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. Therefore, even if MI5 had sought information - under a warrant - before the attack, the company might not have responded. They appear to accept no responsibility for the services they provide. This is of very serious concern: the capability of the Agencies to access the communications of their targets is essential to their ability to detect and prevent terrorist threats in the UK.

We note that the Government has already started to take action on these issues, through the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 and the appointment of the Special Envoy on intelligence and law enforcement data sharing. However, the problem is acute: until it is resolved the British public are exposed to a higher level of threat.

Whilst this is the major issue in our Report, we have also identified a number of lessons which the Agencies must learn. These are listed in the Report in detail. However, I wish to draw attention to two of them today, as they are particularly relevant to the current threats faced by the UK:

i) We have seen in recent months the numbers of young British men and women who have travelled to Syria and Iraq to engage in terrorism. The scale of the problem indicates that the Government‟s counter-terrorism programmes are not working. Successfully diverting individuals from the radicalisation path is essential, yet Prevent programmes have not been given sufficient priority. We strongly urge our colleagues on the Home Affairs or Communities Select Committees to consider this issue as a matter of urgency, given the threat our country currently faces.

ii) In the same context, we have also considered SIS‟s work to disrupt the link between UK extremists and terrorist organisations overseas. In the case of Adebolajo – a British citizen arrested overseas and suspected of trying to join a terrorist organisation – SIS‟s response was inadequate. They considered deportation (or voluntary departure) to be a sufficient solution; they failed to investigate his allegations of mistreatment; and neither they nor MI5 accorded him sufficient priority upon his return to the UK. Given the current situation in Syria and Iraq, we have very significant concerns in this regard.”

Monday, 24 November 2014

Labour find £250m cuts to 'protect frontline policing'

The Labour party have this evening set out how, they claim, they it will make nearly £250 million of savings in the Home Office in order to better protect frontline policing. In the first interim report from the Zero-Based Review (ZBR), Chris Leslie, Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and Yvette Cooper, Shadow Home Secretary, outline how Labour will:
  • Make savings of at least £172 million a year by reforming police procurement through mandatory joint purchasing of equipment by police forces.
  • Scrap elected Police and Crime Commissioners - saving £50 million next year - in order to save the 1,100 police officers set to be axed according to Home Office plans for 2015/16.
  • Implement full-cost recovery for gun licensing, raising £17.2 million a year, and levy increased fees for police driver offender retraining, raising £9 million a year.

Publication of the ZBR policing report comes one year after the conclusion of the Independent Police Commission, carried out for Labour and led by Lord Stevens, on how to deliver more with fewer resources. Today Chris Leslie and Yvette Cooper provide more details on how to cut waste from Home Office and policing structures, including how savings could be found through better purchasing and management of the procurement chain. The ZBR policing report has highlighted several instances of poor management in Home Office police spending. This includes deep disparities in the cost of equipment purchased by individual forces - for example the price paid for high-visibility jackets varying fivefold between £20 and up to £100.

Labour say they have also identified initial savings of £172 million a year through polices forces’ joint purchasing. Analysis of data produced by the National Audit Office shows it is possible to make procurement savings of 20 per cent across the Parliament, with the scope to increase the cash sum from the first year total of £172 million. Provisional estimates suggest our procurement plan could see savings increase to between £301 million and £430 million by 2017.

Labour say they will therefore introduce mandatory national procurement and use these additional savings to support police force budgets from 2015/16 onwards and minimise the loss of officers from the frontline in future years. We will also draw further savings from increasing collaboration between forces and bearing down on overtime in forces where performance is worse than that of the majority.

Commenting the Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Chris Leslie, said: "David Cameron and George Osborne are set to break their promise to balance the books by next year. The next Labour government will finish the job of balancing the books but we will do so in a fairer way by making different choices from the Tories. Labour’s Zero-Based Review has identified almost a quarter of a billion pounds of savings which we will make in the Home Office budget. With departmental spending set to be reduced in the next Parliament, these savings will help us to better protect frontline policing compared to Tory plans."

Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper commented: "Under the Tories’ policies and spending plans, another 1,100 police officers are due to be cut next year alone, with the police warning that many more officers and vital public duties are at risk. This first stage of Labour’s Zero-Based Review of the Home Office shows how Labour plans can make savings to help get the deficit down and prevent 1,100 officers being cut next year. The police are already struggling to cope with growing crimes such as violent crime, child sex exploitation, online child abuse and online fraud, and prosecutions are falling as they can’t get cases to trial."

Continuing Ms Cooper said: "That’s what makes this Zero-Based Review so important. When money is tight, we need to get the best out of every pound, challenge waste and find new savings. We are determined to find ways to protect the vital frontline work our police do, whilst making the savings we need to help get the deficit down. Policing needs to reform, as Lord Stevens independent review set out last year. But Theresa May is completely failing to work with the police to get basic savings on things like procurement. Instead she is fragmenting the police, making it harder to get efficiency savings in place, and wasting tens of millions on elections for Police and Crime Commissioners that no one wants. It is bad management, bad policy, and our communities can’t afford five more years of this."

"Labour will do things differently - abolishing Police and Crime Commissioners and requiring forces to work together to make the savings they need, so they can keep protecting communities too." Yvette Cooper added.

Labour say their Zero-Based Review of public spending is a root and branch review of every pound the government spends from the bottom up.  The ZBR was launched by Ed Miliband and Ed Balls last year and today marks the publication of its first interim report. The final phase of the ZBR will be completed in Labour’s first year in office.

Government offer support "in principle" for Sarah Teather's bill to tackle revenge eviction

Liberal Democrat MP, for Brent Central, Sarah Teather’s bill to tackle retaliatory evictions has today been published, ahead of its second reading on Friday. The Tenancies (Reform) Bill will stop landlords evicting tenants who make a complaint about essential repairs or poor conditions in their homes. It has cross-party support, and the Government is supporting the bill in principle.

Figures from Shelter show 213,000 people have been victims of revenge eviction in the last year alone. On top of this, one in eight tenants have not asked for repairs because they fear eviction. Research also reveals those who find it most difficult to rent – including families receiving Housing Benefit and BME people – are more likely to be evicted simply for complaining about a serious problem in their home. On Friday, MPs will get the chance to support the bill at its second reading in the House of Commons.

Commenting, Sarah Teather said: "This is a great opportunity for us to make the private rented sector work better for tenants, local authorities and good landlords alike. Many people put up with dangerous or unsanitary conditions because they fear eviction. Understandably, they don’t want to leave their community or take their kids out of the local school – or face the costs of moving to another home. This is also bad for good landlords. They want to know about problems as they arise – not get a nasty surprise when tenants leave the property. Stopping revenge eviction will also give local authorities the confidence to use their powers to tackle poor conditions in the private rented sector."

"That’s why I am urging MPs to turn up to support the bill on Friday, and put a stop to retaliatory eviction once and for all." Ms Teather added.

Campbell Robb, Shelter's chief executive said: "No family should have to live in a home that puts their health and well-being at risk, let alone face eviction just for asking their landlord to fix a problem. Yet every day, we hear from parents up and down the country living in fear that damp or gas and electrical hazards are putting their children in danger, but feeling powerless to do anything about it. This has to stop. With a bill to end revenge evictions going through parliament this week, we now have a real chance to change the law and protect renting families. We're calling on people across the country to email their MPs and ask them to vote to end this unfair practice once and for all."

Announcing the Government’s support in principle for the bill in September, Communities Minister Stephen Williams said: "Our private rental sector is a vital asset, providing a home to 9 million people across the country. So I’m determined to root out the minority of rogue landlords that give it a bad name.That’s why we’re backing Sarah Teather’s Bill to outlaw revenge evictions once and for all - ensuring tenants do not face the prospect of losing their home simply because they’ve asked for essential repairs to be made."